Cherry Blossom Frappuccino

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My husband brought me back the limited edition Cherry Blossom Frappuccino from Starbucks, that’s only available until tomorrow, March 20, 2016. 🙂 There’s no cherry or even a cherry flavor in the drink (it’s just a strawberry and cream shake with a sprinkle of matcha green tea powder to represent the tree) but it’s so beautiful it’s definitely worth trying.

One thing I miss about living in Japan (although I only lived there as a kid) is seeing rows and rows of beautiful of vibrant sakura trees that blossom around March / April every year. When you see lovely pink pedals dancing in the air and drunken people picnicking and partying at a park (an event called “hanami,” or flower viewing), you know spring has finally arrived!

Bouchon at the Venetian

This place needs no introduction.

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Moscow Mule, quite a departure from our usual wine.

Oysters, of course, and Pâté de Campagne.

Steak Frites (for me) and I think this was Sole Meuniere (for Maya).

Flan and Beignets.

Then we were off to watch Britney like a pair of teenagers!

Bouchon
At the Venetian

B&B Ristorante at the Venetian

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You know you’re in Vegas when Mario Batali is more powerful than Caesar himself. Seriously, look at this! You turn a corner and there he is, waiting for you, with a pair of his orange Crocs!

Good thing that all his restaurants are pretty legit; otherwise Maya and I would be picking up an overpriced Chinese food at a food court at some sorry mall. And this place lived up to the reputation of Babbo of the West.

Appetizers: Complimentary chickpeas on toast, Warm Lamb’s Tongue, and Grilled Octopus.

Main Course: Seafood pasta and roasted Brussel sprouts

Dessert:  Spiced Almond “Tronchetto”and I forgot the name of the other one 😛

B&B Ristorante
At the Venetian

db Brasserie at the Venetian

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When I was organizing my photo album, I came across a bunch of photos from BFF Maya and my Las Vegas adventure, which took place … wait for it … wait for it … in October 2015!

It’s been more than five months since our trip to the Sin City, but I decided to post them here anyway!

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These are the food photos from Chef Daniel Boulud‘s db Brasserie at the Venetian, where we stayed. We ate here the night before during the Happy Hour, and we had such a wonderful experience that we decided to come back for brunch the following day.

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Unfortunately, the dining experience the next day was night and day compared to the one we received the night before. 😦  Let’s just say that we wished we went somewhere else for brunch that day so we could have remembered this place fondly in our hearts.

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Here’s what we ate:  Charcuterie Board; Provencal Caesar Salad; Moulees Mariniere (for me); and Crispy Duck Confit Hash (for Maya).

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A lesson learned: A variety is the key to life.

db Brasserie by Daniel Boulud
At the Venetian

You’re So Sweet: March 14

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March 14 is quite a busy day for sweets on both ends of the Pacific Ocean.

In Japan, the day is called, “White Day.” No, it has nothing to with race, of course, but it has a lot to do with love and sugar. You see, Valentine’s Day, on February 14, is the Japan’s equivalent of Sadie Hawkins Day where a girl gets to ask a guy she likes out, or at least tell him how she feels about him, by giving him chocolates.

It’s a clever marketing ploy by a chocolate company, I tell you, but it’s a big deal for them gals!  Some of them wait an entire year for this special day and wait patiently until the 14th of the following Month, on White Day, to receive a response from the guy via white chocolate or marshmallow, hence the name.

Here, in the U.S., it’s National Pi Day!

The two events occasioned me to bake something sweet and because I wasn’t in the mood for pie, I went for some good old brownies, courtesy of Martha Stewart.  I know brownies have nothing to do with White Day or Pi Day, but I say sugar is sugar!

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I used the Godiva dark chocolate bars that I received as a birthday gift a few months ago, and added one cup each of dried cranberries, chopped almonds, and white chocolate chips, in an attempt to clear out the freezer. I think these made the brownies extra decadent, perfect for the sweet March 14.

Rose Ice Facial Treatment

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I went to Jo-Ann’s the other day and while I was in line for a check out, I came across this lovely (and very strategically placed) magazine called Willow and Sage that features so many wonderful recipes for homemade bath and body stuff. I’ve never seen the magazine before but when I flipped through the pages and saw glossy photos of body scrubs and handmade perfumes, along with many other homemade beauty items, I knew I had to take it home.

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Immediately upon arriving home, I made these Rose Ice Facial Treatment. The recipe is rather simple — you just freeze the mixture of water, rosewater and rose petals in an ice cube tray. The recipe called for 1/8 cup rosewater, 1/8 cup filtered water, and a handful of rose pedals.

The measurements listed in the magazine just weren’t enough liquid to fill even half the ice tray mold … so I mixed 1/2 cup each of water and rosewater together instead and filled the tray, and sprinkled liberal amount of rose petals. I’m glad I had all the ingredients on hand but you can get them at Bramble Berry!

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I rub the ice cube directly onto my face and neck after I come out of the shower. I do this every other day and I skip my regular toner altogether on the days I do this. I love it — it smells wonderful and give my skin an extra firmness … and it cost me next to nothing!

Bacang

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My BFF Maya has outdone herself, once again. She sent me my favorite Indonesian treat from Portland! When she used to live down here, she would let me try all kinds of Southeast Asian feast from her homeland, and bacang, with sweet and spicy meat wrapped in sticky or regular rice and steamed in banana leaves, was my absolute favorite.

She sent me a total of four — two made with regular rice and the rest made with sticky rice. I think my favorite was the latter, since I’m a huge fan of the flavor and texture of glutenous rice.

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The timing was especially perfect because it was Friday and I just wasn’t in the mood to cook dinner. It was a wonderful way to start the weekend, with the lovely rice treat or two, washed down with a glass of wine.

Thank you, Maya! I love you!

Handmade Soaps for a Good Cause

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My daughter’s pre-school is hosting a bazaar fundraiser this weekend and was looking for some handmade items to sell, so I donated a few handmade soaps that I already had on hand.  They are the lavender-scented Olive Oil Soaps and Honey Soaps.

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I always struggle with creative packaging ideas for soaps … but I decided to go simple this time and just wrap the soap in wax paper and decorate it with a lovely floral washi tape I purchased from this online shop in Japan called Cafe de Savon, which, by the way, is an amazing shop that sells the best acrylic soap molds E.V.E.R.

I hope people find them interesting and decide to take them home!

Episode 5: One Minute Gourmet: Renaud’s Patisserie and Bistro

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My husband discovered this quaint little French patisserie in Santa Barbara a few years ago.  The place is so charming, I imagine this is how Jane’s The Bakery from the movie, It’s Complicated, would be like if it really existed in the lovely seaside town.

Renaud’s Patisserie and Bistro, a small shop tucked away in the corner of a shopping center, is not as flashy or as big as the fictional bakery in the movie, but I would imagine the feeling you get would be similar, with the aromas of buttery croissants and dark roasted coffee beans welcoming patrons walking into the door.  It’s absolutely heavenly.

So, ever since the discovery, we’ve been driving to Santa Barbara, just to get our eager hands on the mouthwatering Almond Croissant (and macarons … and apple tarts … and financiers … and …).  Those trips were made willingly, of course, but we wished that there was a way to get a hold of the goodies without the 100-plus mile drive up the 101 freeway.

Well, well, what do we know.  There was Renaud’s inside the Gelson’s supermarket in La Canada, which is a mere 20-mile drive from our place, THIS ENTIRE TIME!  eek

Sure, a part of me was extremely ecstatic at the idea that those amazing sweets are available just around the corner for us now, but I also did have a momentary “W … T … F” moment, like “Ummm … I would like to get reimbursed for the money I spent on gas all these time, thank you very much.”

635 Foothill Blvd, La Cañada Flintridge, CA 91011

Episode 4: One Minute Gourmet: Giada

What happens in Vegas doesn’t really stay in Vegas.

I usually don’t have any remorse over things that happen in Vegas. Even if I lose a few bucks gambling, or went a little overboard shopping, I’m over it by the end of the trip. But I can’t get over when I overpay for a meal … and Giada De Laurenttis’ signature restaurant, Giada, inside The Cromwell is one hand I totally regret.

I must admit that the food was pretty decent. I won’t say it’s a four star restaurant but the plate of Gnocchi with tomato sauce was simple but flavorful, and the Eggplant Lasagna had the wonderful combination of rich and cheesy flavors. The Spinach and Ricotta pizza was mediocre, at best, but what doesn’t taste good if it’s washed down with a glass of fruity Sangaria?

I think the restaurant perfectly represents Giada herself, or the way I feel about her:  It’s gorgeous and there’s no denying that this place has an impeccable taste, but it’s not interesting enough for me to return, especially with the outrageous price tag that’s attached to it.  Yes, you’re good but you’re no Mario Batali or even Bobby Flay.

Think:  Overpriced California Pizza Kitchen, with below average service.  But it does have a nice view overlooking the Vegas strip.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Valentine’s Day … and congratulations to all the Los Angeles Marathon finishers today!

Giada
At The Cromwell
3595 Las Vegas Blvd South, Las Vegas, NV 89109